Working on a ship can be a lucrative yet hazardous profession. But what happens when a worker suffers an injury while they are on the crew of a ship? Many people may believe that they should turn to workers’ compensation as their only means of recovering for their working injuries.
However, because of the unique nature of shipping and working as part of a crew, injured seamen may be entitled to additional protections and even more compensation under federal laws than under South Carolina’s workers’ compensation system.
If you have been injured as a seaman, contact a Charleston seaman injury lawyer. These distinguished attorneys are experienced in helping injured crew members and ship employees and familiar with the complexities of seaman injury claims.
The Jones Act
The Merchant Marine Act of 1920, which is better known as the “Jones Act,” is a federal law that establishes protections for maritime workers who are injured. However, these protections are only available to those who are considered “seamen.”
In its Chandris, Inc. v. Latsis ruling, the United States Supreme Court introduced a test to determine who is considered a seaman under the protection of the Jones Act, and can, therefore, seek compensation following an injury. Specifically, an injured worker must show that they contributed to the function of a vessel or to the accomplishment of the vessel’s mission, and they were assigned permanently to the vessel or spent a substantial part of their total work time–30%–aboard the vessel or an identifiable fleet of vessels.
Therefore, the term seaman can cover a variety of jobs a worker may be assigned to on a vessel including deckhands, cooks, officers, and marine riggers.
Representation of a Variety of Vessels
Being deemed a seaman can significantly increase a worker’s ability to recover for an injury sustained aboard a vessel. The Charleston seaman injury lawyer has experience representing injured seaman on a variety of vessels, including:
- Fishing and shrimp boats
- Cruise ships
- Merchant vessels
- Tug boats
- Offshore oil rigs
- Water taxis
- Riverboats casinos
- Crew boats
If an individual has been injured while working on a vessel, they should contact a Charleston maritime injury lawyer today who has experience representing injured workers in Charleston and other South Carolina communities.
Common Injuries to Seaman
Working on a ship can be a dangerous profession. Seamen are at a constant risk of injury from heavy machinery, poorly maintained equipment, and adverse weather conditions. Common injuries to seaman include:
- Head and neck injuries
- Spinal injuries
- Traumatic brain injuries
- Broken bones
- Repetitive stress injuries
- Lower back injuries
Responsibility and Liability of Ship Owners and Operators
Ship owners and operators of vessels have a duty and responsibility to implement and develop adequate safety protections, remedy hazardous conditions, and provide an overall safe and seaworthy vessel. This entails properly staffing a ship with the appropriate number of seamen and providing them with adequate training.
While the Jones Act and other maritime laws provide injured seaman with a means of receiving compensation, ship owners and operators may still be held personally liable for their negligence if a crew member becomes ill or is injured.
Compensation for an Injury
If a seaman is injured or becomes ill during the course of their service on a ship or other vessel, they are entitled to certain forms of compensation. Generally, under the Jones Act, an injured seaman can recover compensation from two broad categories:
- Maintenance – maintenance benefits are intended to provide seaman who are injured or ill a daily stipend to cover their room and board while they are away from their vessel
- Cure – Cure benefits are generally in the form of medical coverage and can include payments for medical expenses for all medical necessities, such as doctors’ appointments, medical diagnostic exams, surgeries, and even prosthetics
However, while these benefits are generally available, it is common for vessel owners and operators to dispute the amounts, leaving injured seaman saddled with medical debt and expenses.
A dedicated and knowledgeable Charleston seaman injury lawyer can help injured seamen by aggressively pursuing the benefits they are entitled to, appealing rejected claims, if necessary, and advocating for the seaman’s best interests.
Talk to a Charleston Seaman Injury Attorney Today
Maritime law is a complex area of law. However, with over 40 years combined experience, the maritime injury lawyers at Howell and Christmas have helped injured workers in Charleston and other South Carolina waterfront areas navigate difficult procedural steps, from applying for benefits to appealing denials and filing civil suits for recovery.
Contact a Charleston seaman injury lawyer who will bring a wealth of experience and innovative strategy to your case, and who is prepared to handle your claim and protect your rights.